As we stay safely at home as much as possible, we’re spending even more time on the sofa than we used to. We never needed much excuse to spend our time in front of the telly, but this is something else entirely.
Luckily, there’s no shortage of incredible TV to choose from. In fact, there are so many shows available to watch, past and present, and so many channels and platforms on which to watch them, that the choice can be a little dazzling.
So, to help you fill these troubled times with as much glorious TV as possible, we’re starting a new weekly guide to some of the best shows currently on commercial TV or waiting for you in the archives. And, to give it some structure, we’re doing it thematically, starting with something we all need right now … Feelgood TV.
1. The Great British Bake Off (Channel 4)
Few shows are quite so warm and reassuring as The Great British Bake Off, a giant comfort blanket for these troubled times.
Currently airing in its celebrity-packed Stand Up To Cancer special edition on Channel 4, it’s not just a once a week treat, with previous series available on-demand.
Not only that, there’s also the possibility that it will inspire you to get into the kitchen to bake up a treat or two to enjoy while watching the following week’s show. Now that’s a recipe we could get used to.
What they say: ‘Any show as joyous as this helps right now. And the more they slap distractionary nonsense on television … in between family reunions on Zoom, the better.’ iNews
2. The Trip (Sky One)
The latest - and very possibly last - series of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s faux-verite travelogues recently came to an end on Sky One.
And watching the pair of them swapping jokes and impressions over haute cuisine while bathed in glorious sunshine feels like the ultimate escape right now.
The third and fourth series - to Spain and Greece - are both available on Sky with the first two series (to the north of England and around Italy) on Britbox.
What they say: ‘Like watching the most entertaining people you know dominate a dinner party … Let it wash over you like a wave.’ (The Guardian)
3. Taskmaster (Dave)
In the feelgood TV stakes Taskmaster is like a big warm-hearted bear hug from the Taskmaster himself, Greg Davies.
The brainchild of the Taskmaster’s assistant, Alex Horne, five contestants grapple with a series of bizarre challenges while everyone has fun. Lots of fun.
Pick any opening episode from its nine series to date - they are all available on-demand - and binge-watching it to the end is a task you will have no trouble completing. Having started on Dave in 2015 Taskmaster will return on Channel 4, which acquired it last year.
Horne is also helping beat the boredom of self-isolation with #hometasking on Twitter.
What they say: ‘A gang of comics play silly games, then squabble about them. This is totally pointless comfort TV – but that’s precisely why it’s become a hit.’ (The Guardian)
4. Cold Feet (ITV)
With a little - okay then, a lot - more time at home than usual, it’s the perfect opportunity to go back and watch one of your favourite series right from the beginning. And if you haven’t already seen Cold Feet, then even better.
The entire nine series run - a total of 60 episodes - is now available to view on BritBox. Mike Bullen’s comedy drama about the lives and loves of three couples originally ran from 1997 to 2003 before making a triumphant return to ITV four years ago.
Now it’s taking another break but will return for a 10th series ‘when the time is right’.
What they say: ‘A paean to friendship that's as warm and comfy as a pair of old bedsocks.’ (Sydney Morning Herald)
5. A League of Their Own - the US Road Trip/European Road Trip (Sky One)
It’s been a few years now since Sky One’s riotous comedy game show A League of their Own first went on the road.
Along with two trips to the US there have been two jaunts around Europe, the second of which aired on Sky One in January, and all four are now available on-demand.
With team captains Freddie Flintoff and Jamie Redknapp and guests competing in a series of challenges set by James Corden, it’s a sign of how well they work that they feel like one-off specials except - fortunately for us - there are whole series of them.
What they say: ‘Unapologetic hilarity guaranteed for one hour of your viewing pleasure’ (The Edge)
6. Friday Night Dinner (Channel 4)
One of Channel 4’s longest-running sitcoms, Friday Night Dinner has just returned to Channel 4 for its sixth series.
Set around the weekly family gathering of the Goodman family (Simon Bird, Tom Rosenthal, Tamsin Greig and Paul Ritter), each meal ends up as reassuringly chaotic as ever.
Singlehandedly written and produced by Robert Popper (Peep Show, the Inbetweeners, Look Around You), all episodes of the show, which began in 2011, are available on All4.
What they say: ‘One of the best comedy ensembles on TV … Every episode feels like you're checking in with family over the road – and their weird, but lovable, neighbour (Mark Heap).’ Digital Spy
7. Gordon, Gino and Fred: Road Trip (ITV)
Sometimes the unlikeliest sounding partnerships are the best and so it proved when ITV brought together TV chefs Gordon Ramsay and Gino D’Campo and First Dates maître d’, Fred Sirieix.
Having first teamed up in a camper van to cook and swear their way around Scotland, France and Italy, the three of them head off for Mexico and the USA for the second series, beginning on 2 April.
Promising a ‘food tour like never before’, it’s the trio’s comedy oneupmanship and bickering bromance that really whets the appetite. Potty-mouthed escapism of the highest order.
What they say: ‘Instant TV gold … it took precisely five minutes (or less) for the trio of Gordon Ramsay, Gino D'Acampo and Fred Sirieix to establish themselves as a new iconic TV duo.’ (Digital Spy)
8. Gogglebox (Channel 4)
Gogglebox has always reflected our lives back to us with its real-life relationships and communal reactions to the things we watch on television.
It’s something that feels even more true in a state of national lockdown, a helpful reminder in these difficult times that we are all in this together. Not only that, it’s as blissfully funny as ever.
Unlike a lot of TV production which has been affected by coronavirus, it’s business (almost) as normal on the show, with automated cameras taking the place of crew who are now unable to go into participants’ homes.
Now into its 13th series on Channel 4, all previous episodes are available on All4 going back to 2013.
What they say: ‘The Gogglebox format is so intimate - we're let into these people's sitting rooms, where we watch them laugh, cry, eat, drink and lounge about in pyjamas - that the cast genuinely feel like old friends.’ Daily Telegraph
9. Portrait Artist of the Year (Sky Arts)
There’s been lots of talk about how people could use all this time self-isolating to learn something new or take up a fresh hobby.
Like painting, for example. Or you could just do what we do and watch Portrait Artist of the Year on Sky Arts instead.
It’s all there, the emotions, the triumphs, the occasional disaster, and best of all the genuine ‘oh, wow!’ moments when the celebrity sitters get to see their portraits.
All this and the only thing you’ve picked up is the remote control (although, by the time you’re finished, you’ll be sorely tempted to give it a go).
Winningly presented by Joan Bakewell and Stephen Mangan, the 11th series has just finished on Sky Arts and it’s all available to watch on catch-up.
What they say: ‘One of the most delightful talent shows on TV.’ Radio Times.
10. Dynamo: Magician Impossible (W)
Nothing like a bit of magic to whisk you away from reality for a moment or two, and nobody does it quite like Dynamo.
All episodes of this globe-hopping series, in which Dynamo travelled around the world from London to Los Angeles, India to Ibiza, are available to watch on W.
An awe-inspiring mix of epic illusions and close-up street magic, feelgood might not quite capture it. Feel confused? Feel stumped? Feel totally and utterly bamboozled by what you’ve just seen? But definitely feel better.
What they say: ’Even the staunchly rational would have found themselves thoroughly baffled.’ (Daily Telegraph)